It’s not about technology. It’s about people.
As part of their People of Action program, Microsoft approached Belief Agency and asked us to tell the story of 21-year-old Easton LaChappelle, a young engineer 3-D printing fully functioning robotic arms, and Momo, the 9-year-old girl who received Easton’s first successful device. To capture an honest portrait of the story while balancing logistical difficulties—filming took place in Florida, Colorado, and Washington, with most of the filming in Washington taking place in secure, closed-to-the-public locations on Microsoft’s Redmond campus—with a story that was unfolding in real time, we implemented storytelling fundamentals and broke the story into three five-minute documentaries. Each chapter was focused around a central theme:
At 14, Easton made his first robotic hand out of LEGOs, fishing wire, and electrical tubing for a middle school science fair. But it was a chance meeting with a little girl in need of a prosthetic that propelled his hobby into a full-fledged mission: to create affordable prosthetics on a global scale. Easton first garnered national attention in 2013 when then-President Barack Obama shook hands with Easton’s first prototype at the White House Science Fair.
“If you go into this just thinking about the technology, you’re going to miss it. It’s not about the technology; it’s about the people behind it.”
One day, Easton was approached by a nonprofit based in Tampa, Florida. They told him they’d been working with an 9-year-old girl named Momo who was missing her right arm from her elbow down. She had a basic prosthetic: a claw-like device with a simple open-and-close motion. As he learned about her, he was struck by how much she reminded him of the girl who inspired his journey in the first place. Easton agreed that Momo was the perfect candidate for the device he had in development, and set his goal on delivering his first fully functioning device to Momo.
Easton’s mission evolved as he dedicated himself to creating a prosthetic arm for Momo that could serve as a model for thousands of other people who couldn’t afford to buy a new one each year. Just as Easton was running out of resources and money, Microsoft learned about his project (and that he was using Microsoft products like the Surface and the Xbox Kinect sensor to create 3-D scans of residual limbs). Microsoft brought Easton to Seattle to work in Building 87—their guarded and highly confidential prototyping lab—while providing him with laptops, computers, and other technology. Lead Microsoft industrial designers dropped everything to become involved in the project, working long nights to support Easton’s progress.
Easton managed to pull it off with the help of the Microsoft team; he completed Momo’s prosthetic arm just in time for their meeting in Seattle.
Easton’s story went viral. Within 24 hours of being posted on Mashable.com and Mashable’s Facebook page, Easton’s video received 1,200,000 views, 25,000 reactions, 20,000 shares, and 600 comments. Tony Robbins shared the Mashable link with his Facebook community, resulting in over 180,000 views, 4,000 reactions, and 850 shares within the first day. The release of Easton’s story was immediately followed by coverage elsewhere, including features in HuffPost UK, Digital Trends, and NowThis.